Secrets of start-up success

Published 8:02 pm Friday, January 25, 2013

About 70 folks who attended a Business Reinvention Summit at the North Suffolk Hilton Garden Inn on Friday were schooled on what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur.

The summit was part of the Hampton Roads Business Reinvention Project, run by the city of Suffolk and the Virginia Regional Center for USJFCOM Workforce Transition and Business Development.

The center’s April 2011 opening was in response to jobs lost after the shuttering of the North Suffolk defense installation.

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Friday’s event, led by University of Virginia professor of entrepreneurship Sara Sarasvathy, was the project’s second installment after a seminar at the Virginia Modeling, Analysis and Simulation Center on Jan. 14.

Sarasvathy tutored the group of business owners and advisors, entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs on how to be successful without having to learn by trial and error.

“You don’t have to go to the school of hard knocks to learn,” Sarasvathy said. “You can build a flight simulator; you don’t have to get into the plane.”

The project is based on Sarasvathy’s research at UVA’s Darden School of Business, according to a news release.

Looking at the traits of successful entrepreneurs, she unearthed five “major principles” they have in common.

She also discovered that “these active principles are teachable and applicable for all entrepreneurs and business practitioners,” the release says.

Sarasvathy believes that entrepreneurship is a teachable science, rather than an art. “Effectual practices are particularly beneficial for entrepreneurs and businesses needing to diversify … reinvent new lines of business or products, and to grow even in unpredictable environments.”

Sarasvathy told folks at the event, “You don’t just retire, you retire to the Bahamas, right?”

Then she brought them back down to earth, saying, “I don’t know many people who have done that,” and explained that it can be a long road to success.

“People always just say, ‘I don’t know where to begin; I don’t have any idea.’ We hear these over and over again … ‘I don’t know what to do; I don’t have the money.’

“Those of you who are facing this issue, you are not alone.”

The project will continue in February with a six-week series of workshops at the transition and business development center. Expert consultation will also be available to project participants.

The project is funded with an Office of Economic Adjustment grant via Virginia’s Office of the Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security.